Cultish Followings and Golden Agesby
Recently some friends of mine and I were discussing gaming. Now, as common with gaming discussions, we began to talk about all of our old campaigns, most of which were of the AD&D 1st edition variety. One of my friends termed it the "Golden Age of Gaming".
"The what?" was my incredulous reply. He began to babble on about how great AD&D was and how all the systems out now (including 2nd edition) paled in comparison. Normally, I would have just let it slide and gone about my business, but I was wondering what I should write for this months column and it just seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up.
It's not just one or two people that see their particular choice of RPG as far superior to every other RPG, even if they've only played a small number of other RPGs. The two games that have the largest number of this kind of following are of course AD&D and the WhiteWolf games. Personally, I feel that these two game systems aren't even good enough to gain the following they've got.
AD&D is popular primarily because it was the first to carve out a niche. It gained a following and the name itself became synonymous with the words Role Playing Game. -Even I tend to use the phrase, "You know, like Dungeons and Dragons" when someone asks me what a RPG is.- As such it has gained a cult-like following who organize once a week to lay things down on their shrine to Gary Gygax, despite the fact that he also had a hand in Cyborg Commandos and Dangerous Journeys. I don't see what all the fuss is about. AD&D is a clunky system with * ahem * a poor magic system. THAC0s, Saving Throws, and Alignment Languages bog down the system. That, coupled with the random die roll for stats make me want to head for the door when someone offers to run a D&D game, lately. Sure, AD&D is one of the first, but that hardly makes it the best.
...Not that it's game nemesis, WhiteWolf's Vampire, is much better. Sure, it doesn't have any of the failings that plague AD&D, it's on the other end of the spectrum completely. Well, except for the fact that they both have poor combat systems. Vampire's popularity stems from an entirely different crowd - the Goths. Vampire claims to be a class-less, rules-light gaming system, yet it each pointed-tooth wonder is part of a Clan and a person needs more dice than they'd ever need for D&D - yet not quite as many as they'd need in Shadowrun. But, I will say that games can be rules-light and dice-heavy. Vampire is also plagued with system problems in general, as simply allowing a person to roll more dice to hit a target number (on each die) does not increase the chances of success.
Sure, both systems have nice, rich backgrounds and are rife with good writing - not to mention the plethora of supplements available to them. But good enough to gain the fanatic followings they have? Not hardly.
There are a lot of different games to choose from. If you can think of a type of game that you want to play there's a system of rules out for it and I'm not even including the generic, customizable role-playing systems. There are new games coming out on a monthly basis, and if you don't believe me head on over to the reviews page to see for yourself! Each of these games is simply a step, a step towards the future of gaming. What is that future? I don't know; I can only say that we're building it right now. With all the people writing reviews, editorials, and whatnot about gaming we're shaping it into what we want it to be.
The cult-like followings and over-all pretentiousness of some gamers are slowing our progress. Older gamers, yearning to embrace their youth when they did have time to game more cling to AD&D as if it were the fountain of youth itself. Goths, looking for an excuse to stay home and save a little money and other people who wouldn't even be gaming were it not another excuse to be pretend to be depressed and wear black play Vampire. Both groups give their game a bad name. I'm sure there are plenty of people who play these games that are quite willing to try out other systems as well - but I'd say they were a rarity.
When people talk about a game they love they hardly ever talk about the actual system. No, what makes a game are the players and it's GM. Be it good or bad, as long as it's not boring or mediocre, it'll give us something to talk about in the future. But to base our perceptions of a system off the players and GM is ludicrous. All the system is there for is to try to keep a sense of fairness and answer questions when necessary. And there is no reason to worship a system, not the systems out today, and certainly not clunky or poor systems like AD&D or the WhiteWolf system.
"Golden Age of Gaming" - hah! Buddy, we're still in the Iron Age.
-Roll saving throw versus bad-gaming
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